The UK needs a major change in how it decarbonises homes to meet its climate targets
Everyone should be worried as UK climate advisers warn the government’s policies on the country’s second biggest emitter are not working, writes UKGBC’s Louise Hutchins
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is perhaps the most important five-year plan in history to stop climate change. progress report to Parliament last week could not have been a more serious wake-up call for the government. While the UK remains a world leader in setting its climate change ambitions, the CCC tells us that “current programs will not deliver net zero”, with the likelihood of under-delivery “high” in most areas.
Buildings are the second largest source of emissions in the UK after land transport. However, CCC data shows that there has been no sustained reduction in emissions from buildings over the past decade.
We at the Green Business Council are very concerned about this. And this is something that should concern everyone.
For those still wondering why, here’s a roundup of what the latest update from the CCC told us about decarbonising buildings.
We lack a plan
The lack of a plan to decarbonise buildings puts our climate goals at risk: by far the largest emissions from buildings come from our homes. The lack of progress in decarbonising buildings is largely due to the fact that energy efficiency systems in homes fell off a cliff after the government reversed key policies in 2012. “Isolation rigs remain at the bottom,” the CCC warns.
Right now we have some goals, but no strategic plan. Without a major gear shift in terms of decarbonizing the home, we simply will not meet our climate goals.
Homeowners are the key
The biggest climate win will be the decarbonisation of most owner-occupied homes. It is now a black hole in politics. The CCC is concerned that “the only policy proposal that covers this is a voluntary target for mortgage lenders to encourage borrowers to make properties more energy efficient. This proposal has limited oversight and no enforcement mechanisms.” Without a serious package of long-term structural and financial drivers in this area, we will not see large-scale progress. The committee calls on the Treasury to “urgently review its tax strategy to support the transition to net zero”. We agree and encourage energy saving stamp duty to encourage homebuyers to upgrade their homes at this critical time to take action.
Tackling the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis can be done in tandem
The government should consider increasing funding and accelerating plans for energy efficiency policies, particularly in fuel-poor homes.” say in the Central Committee, adding “given the sharp rise in electricity bills, there is a shocking gap in policy to better insulate homes.” The fight against the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis should be seen as two sides of the same coin. Increased financial support to upgrade the homes of people suffering from fuel poverty must be long-term and paid for with new money. The CCC notes that “the government promised significant public spending in 2019 and committed to new policies last year, neither of which has yet happened.”
Local authorities play an important role
The CCC also stressed the centrality of local authorities to progress towards net zero, but the government must “ensure that local capacity is increased so that funding and policies are more long-term and more defined”. UKGBC requires national funding for at least one modernization officer in every local authority across the country to build capacity. As part of our large-scale modernization programme, this week we launched a nationwide network of local authorities to share best practice, information and co-ordination.
The government demands action
Public buildings such as hospitals, schools and offices account for 2 per cent of emissions in the UK. The Government’s leadership in this area will demonstrate the priority of this program and help to restore the modernization industry, which has suffered from many cuts and policy failures. The CCC says public funding for the decarbonisation of public buildings covers “less than half the upfront costs of meeting the government’s 2037 target to reduce emissions from public buildings by 75% compared to 2017 levels”. We are concerned by recent media reports that, rather than provide additional funding, the Government is considering raiding this funding pool to pay for a new home warming scheme.
Commercial buildings require government
The CCC calls on the government to “immediately implement various policy proposals to improve energy efficiency [in our non-domestic buildings]It warns that “government plans lack sufficient regulatory leverage to transition away from gas boilers in commercial buildings” and that “the date for phasing out new gas boilers in non-residential buildings is too late”. UKGBC analysis shows we need to 2030 g. for the sale of new oil and gas boilers in commercial buildings.
Our planning system needs a climate overhaul.
Our planning system too often complicates climate and natural crises rather than solving them. The CCC again called for “comprehensive planning reform to meet the UK’s international and national net zero commitments”. The promotion bill in Parliament puts planning reform at the centre, but is currently falling short of the task. That’s why UKGBC defending amendments to put climate and nature at the heart of legislation.
When the CCC talks about “insufficient evidence of achievement of the main objectives”, the anthropological environment must be the first priority. The government urgently needs to fill the policy gaps for industry to accelerate, upskill and scale, or we all have to worry about meeting our climate goals.
Louise Hutchins is UKGBC’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs
https://www.businessgreen.com/opinion/4052244/uk-gear-change-home-decarbonisation-reach-climate-targets The UK needs a major change in how it decarbonises homes to meet its climate targets